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Not Good Enough; schools should have been ready says PDM

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Dana Malcolm 

Staff Writer 

 

#TurksandCaicos, September 11, 2023 – The opposition People’s Democratic Movement is calling for monthly maintenance of public schools as they chide the government for being ill-prepared for the start of the 2023/24 school year, resulting in inconvenience for students and teachers.

“This PNP government has demonstrated to the people of the Turks and Caicos their lack of preparedness to ensure a safe and conducive learning environment for our students by not having the nation’s public schools fully ready for the academic year,” said Robert Been, Deputy Party Leader.

He called for accountability and transparency on why the schools were not ready for September.

Jamell Robinson, Minister of Physical Planning had announced on August 31st that work was still ongoing on schools across the country despite the school year being set to start in days. While acknowledging that the Minister had accepted responsibility for the delay, Been maintained that this did not absolve him of criticism.

“Every year we know when school closes just like the sun rises in the east and sets in the west, we know that school will close in June and reopen in September and yet you’re not prepared,” said Edwin Astwood, Opposition Leader

Washington Misick, TCI Premier was also criticized for participating in what the PDM says appeared to be last-ditch efforts to get schools ready.

“We all saw the video of the premier and the minister of home affairs on some kind of tractor less than 24 hours before the new school year opened putting some sand on the road leading to the Ona Glinton Primary School, that’s it throwing some sand— those things should have been done long time.”

In this vein, Been said the PDM wanted more than maintenance during school holidays

“What is truly needed is a consistent monthly maintenance program for all government schools. This proactive approach is essential for ensuring the proper upkeep and maintenance of our educational facilities.”

He remarked on the impact of ill-prepared school campuses on teachers.

“We cannot forget that our teachers are equally deserving of a safe, clean and pleasant working environment so that they can give their best to our students.  I have heard very little from Minister Robinson on how these delays on school maintenance has impacted our teachers who themselves are making concessions and sacrifices in service to our nation’s children, our most prized possessions. ”

The Deputy Leader also criticized Minister of Education Rachel Taylor for her approach to the issue saying she stopped sort of accepting any responsibility for the maintenance delays and surmised that the style of education management by the PNP Administration will cause students to be left behind.

“The buck stops with her.”

He described the PDM’s position on education.

“An intensive assessment of the physical infrastructure in our education system must be undertaken immediately to ensure we are not focused on quick fix solutions but that we are seriously invested in facilities that are resilient and equipped to cater to the learning needs of our students with a key focus on STEM.”

Opposition Leader, Edwin Astwood maintained that should the PDM be voted into office they would mandate that all contracts be awarded before the end of the school year (May 31st ) to make sure work could commence immediately after the closure of schools.

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Demolition coming as South Base to Undergo Testing for Asbestos

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Turks and Caicos, July 18th, 2024 – The Turks and Caicos Islands Government would like to advise the public of Grand Turk, that a consulting firm has been contracted to carry out testing of the buildings on the South Base Compound for the presence of asbestos.  A week of testing began Wednesday, July 10. This is to ensure compliance with health and safety regulations and to protect workers, residents, and the public from possible asbestos exposure risks once comprehensive works on the base commence.

This is the initial consultation necessary to determine the methodology for the demolition and disposal of derelict buildings in the assessed area.  It is believed that low-risk micro-fibres are present in some of the buildings, owing to the period of construction and the types of materials used during that era.  Testing will confirm whether asbestos is present and if so, at what levels.

As a precautionary measure, signs have been erected to advise the public to avoid entering any of the dilapidated structures; as building materials containing asbestos, if disturbed, can release tiny asbestos fibres into the air.  Currently only the consultants are authorised to traverse the buildings until further notice.

Residents of Grand Turk have for years demanded that Governments address the unsightly area. The requests were mainly in relation to the aesthetics of the buildings. However, the interventions were deferred at various times for varying reasons.

The South Base is a huge compound, by island standards, with an area containing over twenty-one (21) building sites. It was formerly used as a United States Government base, and then as administrative offices by the Turks and Caicos Islands Government. Some of the structures were renovated and are in acceptable condition, whilst others were destroyed over the years by hurricanes and normal wear and tear. 

The South Base, which has mostly been left as a decrepit and ghostly development of obsolete structures is finally being remedied. The area, which is a main thoroughfare for tourism and commerce when cleaned up, will provide space for numerous governmental and civilian uses.

Residents of Grand Turk sharing the optimism of a prospective demolition should adhere to this notification and any precautionary warnings erected for their health, safety, and well-being.

Subsequent phases of the works will be published via a public tendering.

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Caribbean News

RBC donates $175,000 to Hurricane Beryl relief efforts

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PORT OF SPAIN — In the wake of Hurricane Beryl, RBC Royal Bank (RY on TSX and NYSE) (“RBC”) and RBC Foundation USA announced a donation of C$175,000 to the Canadian Red Cross and the American Red Cross in support of Caribbean and U.S. relief efforts.

The devastating hurricane impacted several Caribbean and U.S. communities where RBC operates, including Barbados, the Cayman Islands, and Tobago.

RBC’s contribution will support emergency relief efforts, including shelters, hygiene kits, and social assistance to those in the affected communities.

“The intensity of Hurricane Beryl this early in the season is concerning and our thoughts are with the individuals affected in the Caribbean communities as well as in the U.S.,” said Chris Duggan, Head of RBC Caribbean Banking.

“At RBC, we believe it is our responsibility to support our communities in times of need. Our donation to the Red Cross, will provide immediate assistance to those impacted, ensuring they receive the necessary resources to recover and rebuild.”

Commenting on the Caribbean generosity as well as that of our larger RBC community, Duggan added: “The response of the RBC Caribbean Banking employees, as well as that of our larger RBC community has been generous and unhesitating. In response to the disaster, our colleagues are coming together in many unique and incredible ways and donating personally to help those affected.”

Those that would like to support the relief efforts can donate to the Canadian Red Cross at www.redcross.ca or the American Red Cross at www.redcross.org.

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FortisTCI makes a case for Rate Increase in Media Meeting

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Ruth Gardiner Forbes, President and Chief Executive Officer of FortisTCI

Garfield Ekon

Staff Writer

 

Turks and Caicos, July 17, 2024 – President and Chief Executive Officer of FortisTCI, Ruth Gardiner Forbes says it is very necessary for the company to be granted the 6% increase that it has requested, because it has absorbed many costs in previous years.

Devon Cox FortisTCI

The company is the main electricity provided in the Turks and Caicos Islands (TCI), and the CEO shared that the rate adjustment will aid FortisTCI in meeting the demands of an expanding economy, and growing costs to operate.

If granted, the proposed 6% increase in electricity rate, would mean that an additional $2 to $15 per month for the majority of residential customers, explained Forbes.

While addressing a recent media event, the CEO stressed that “this rate increase is necessary, and we have had to make a lot of investments to keep up with the growth,” she said.

Adding that several factors contribute to the need for increased rates, including cybersecurity risks, wildfire risks, supply chain challenges, and evolving regulatory requirements, she said “this is one of the most difficult things that we have to do, is go to our customers and ask for an increase every year.”

She said the existing circumstances have forced the company to seek the proposed adjustment, and that the rate increase is necessary, as “we have to make the application because amidst all this growth, we have had to make a lot of investments to keep up with the growth,” she told the forum.

The CEO reasoned that given the importance of retaining reliable service, it is not plausible for the TCI to have a headline that says “we are experiencing blackouts,” and the company does not receive a guaranteed 17.5% return, although the rate is allowable by contract, the average return on rate base for the past five years was 3.9%, with the highest being 5.1%.

FortisTCI Execs

The company’s Director of Energy Production, Alvejes Desir, gave details of the impact of the depth of the water at the port on fuel supply costs, adding that limited depth restricts the size of ships that can deliver fuel, leading to increased transportation costs.

He said FortisTCI has made significant investments in renewable energy sources, aligning with the Resilient National Energy Transition Strategy (R-NETS) approved by the Turks and Caicos Islands Government.

The company recently installed a new dual-fuel generating unit capable of using natural gas, a lower-carbon energy source, and is awaiting the Governor’s appointment of an independent inquirer to review the reasonableness of its proposal for a rate hike.

It has also requested the appointment of an independent inquirer to review the reasonableness of its application, a process that was also followed in a previous rate dispute in 2017.

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